If you want to know WHY we have what we have today, here it is in a nutshell. It reflects the Jeffersonian understanding of government embraced by the antebellum South from the philosophy of Lincoln and the people of the North. For if Lincoln had believed as Jefferson, the Civil War would not have happened. In fact, it is probable that the circumstances leading up to that war would not have happened.
So, what in fact, did happen?! Truth to tell, there were two philosophies of government or, more precisely, the nature of man that undergirded the governing principles of North and South. The South held to the Aristotlean philosophy articulated by Locke that Man was a communal being who naturally created groups in which to live. Within those groups government was necessary, but only to provide protection for the citizenry. The creed of this philosophy was voiced by Jefferson: “Government governs best that governs least.”
The second philosophy of government arose from the teachings of British philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes claimed that man, like the tiger, was a solitary being making his way through life as best he could practicing the Law of the Jungle; that is, the survival of the fittest. Therefore, in order for man to be “civilized,” he had to be forced into a relationship with his fellows that could only be sustained through coercion and the only means by which such coercion could be applied was government. Thus government was the means by which civilization and society were maintained and it required a strong central government to do so. If that government was weak and unable to maintain control, the result would be social and political chaos!
This was the philosophy of Abraham Lincoln and his political allies! Secession of the Southern states meant to Lincoln—besides the loss of revenue—the breakup of what had been to that time an ever expanding Union. This, in turn, would lead to a weakening of central authority and eventually, anarchy, something which simply could not be permitted! Anything and everything needful to prevent it was acceptable in light of the unmitigated disaster that would follow a weakening of the central authority and its ability to force a naturally unruly populace into submission! No act was too barbarous, no crime too egregious to be shunned if by its commission the Union was preserved.
This answers many questions about the Union strategy of total war and why the people of the North did not cavil or later repent of the commission of such atrocities against what had been their “brothers.” It was permitted because they were seen as “necessary.”
Of course, Lincoln as a Hobbesian was not talking about “union” as most men understood it then—or now for that matter. A true “union” is by its very nature voluntary. Union at the point of a gun is conquest, occupation and subjugation. Lincoln’s definition of “union” was the submission of the American people—North andSouth—to the will of the central government. And under that arrangement, the states became nothing more than “counties” within a national government. And as counties have no separate powers within their states, so states then have no separate powers within the central government but become bureaucratic entities used for the collection of revenues and the imposition of federal laws, mandates and regulations.
This is, in effect, what happened as a result of the war of 1861. Lincoln and Hobbes won. Aristotle, Locke and Jefferson lost and so did the vision of the Founders along with We the People. Besides explaining how and why a ruinous war came about when sovereign states exercised their constitutional right to depart from a union that was no longer to their collective benefits, it also explains what is going on 150 years later as the same questions arise again as Jefferson Davis prophesied. Indeed, the major question remains: who rules—We the People or the Government?
Web Source: Facebook Post by Valerie Protopapas
October 7, 2020